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Helping others through cycling

BONNE TERRE — After Scott Wegleitner’s uncle died a few years ago from leukemia, he wanted to help other victims who suffer from the disease.

Wegleitner of Bonne Terre decided this year to join the Gateway Chapter of Team in Training, a charity that raises money for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma patients and research.

“I thought this (joining the charity) would be a good way for my family to remember my uncle,” Wegleitner said. “I work at the Parkland Health Center and deal with a lot of cancer patients, so I see how this disease affects their life and I really just wanted to get involved and help.”

For the last three weeks, Wegleitner has been fundraising for the organization.

He’s collected nearly $1,000 in donations and hopes to raise $5,000 by the end of May.

“I’ve been all over handing out beads, trying to get donations and just getting the word out about this organization,” Wegleitner said. “So far, I’ve been to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dogtown and Opening Day outside of Busch Stadium. I’ll be in front of the Desloge Walmart next Thursday collecting money for Team in Training.”

As part of the fundraising, Wegleitner will participate this June in the “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride,” a 100-mile excursion around Lake Tahoe, for the charity.

“This ride, I’m hoping, will take — at the most — seven hours,” he said. “ Me and about 12 other members from the Gateway Chapter will all ride together as a team in the marathon.”

Wegleitner, who is the only resident in St. Francois County to join the Gateway Chapter of Team in Training, said he enjoys riding bikes and has been preparing heavily for the event for a nearly year.

He usually rides 10-20 miles, five days a week.

If it’s raining, however, Wegleitner will train for five hours in his basement on a fitness bike.

Before joining Team in Training, the amateur cyclist participated in one other bike riding event.

“It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve done something like this,” he said. “I’ve never done something to this extent, but I did participate in the ‘Flat as a Pancake Ride’ in Alton, Ill. and have ran in a few other races.”

Aside from collecting money as a team, each member of the Gateway Chapter also holds an individual fundraising event.

Wegleitner decided to personally sell tickets for the cause. Whoever claims the winning ticket will get to  cut off Wegleitner’s hair before the marathon.

Each ticket costs $3 or five for $10 and a winner will be announced in April.

“So far, I’ve only sold 10 tickets,” he said. “I started selling them a week ago, but hope to raise $1,000 from the (ticket sale) alone.”

All money raised by Wegleitner or members of the Gateway Chapter is given each week to the charity.

Team in Training is the world’s largest endurance sports prep program. It provides training to participants who want to walk, run, hike or cycle in any whole or half triathlon, century-mile bike ride, or other adventure.

Participants of Team in Training raise money for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma patients and research in exchange for training, support, lodging and airfare to an endurance or physical event of their choice.

The charity is a nationwide organization, but members from the Gateway Chapter are from eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and Arkansas.

Since 1988, more than 400,000 participants have helped raise money for the charity and have donated more than $1 billion.

The success of the program each year has helped terminally-ill patients living with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

Money raised from fundraising provides financial aid to patiens, medical insurance co-pay assistance, support, curriculum and other services.

Members from the Gateway Chapter have donated more than $19 million to the charity.

In 2009, the team donated about $185,000 in addition to paying $444,000 in insurance co-pays.

“I’ve had a lot of fun so far,” Wegleitner said. “I’ve met a lot of really great people and this is all for a great cause. Even if someone donates, it’s still important for me to get the word out. Since I’ve been collecting money at Opening Day, people will come by and toss some change in, or they will put as much as $20 dollars in. No donation is too big or too small. Everything helps.”

For more information or to donate, please visit: www.teamintraining.org

Brittney French is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114, or at bfrench@dailyjournalonline.com

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